The education taught in Indian schools poorly matches the real challenges of an Indian village. Up to 75% of children drop out of school before graduation. iiINTERest’s educational project seeks to adjust this by complementing the school curriculum with ‘life skills’ education related to food security, health and local democracy and by introducing activity-based learning. Additionally, we seek to preserve and revitalize local ethnic culture in the fields of cultivation, handicrafts and arts. For the young people who drop out of school and do not have a final exam, we offer a short education, tools and help to get started on a craft or a profitable profession. We cooperate with the municipalities and the state authorities, who increasingly assume responsibility for the activities.

50 schools across 25 municipalities are involved in the project. The schools have a total of 5500 pupils. The population in the project areas are often strongly influenced by tribal cultures.

Along with teachers and people from the area with knowledge of the local ethnic culture, teaching is developed through ‘activating learning’ techniques, which, for example, implies that the students in the school learn to grow the vegetables that are used for their midday meal. The activity thus contributes to the students’ knowledge of cultivation, biology and healthy nutrition. Excursions to historical sites are organized and cultural events are arranged, where students sing, dance and display crafts from their ethnic culture. In addition, students are introduced to the local democratic bodies, which in the long term they must be aware of in order to assert their influence.

The young people who have left school without graduation (dropouts) often end up in vulnerable situations. For this group, which in the project includes 2,500 young people, the school premises are used after school hours to arrange short courses in e.g. cultivation of vegetables or fruit trees, animal husbandry or handicrafts according to the individual’s own wishes. Upon graduation in this ‘After School’, the young person receives seeds, a pig, a hen or materials that can help him or her get started on an activity which will allow the young person to contribute to the family’s finances.

Both school and after-school activities take place in close cooperation with the local authorities and the local civil society organizations, and both of these parties are actively involved, so that they to the villagers appear to be responsible for the projects.

In this phase of the Education Project there is a special focus on convincing the highest authorities (in India the state is responsible for education) of the benefits of contextually more appropriate teaching and the After School activities. The intention is that they will gradually take on a greater responsibility, meaning that they have to contribute to the future financing of the project, and they have to make formal agreements about their commitment.

iiINTERest’s project is implemented with a grant of close to DKK 3 million between 1st of January 2017 and 31st of December 2020 in the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Ahead Initiatives is the project’s Indian partner.